The focus on football and its connection to brain injuries continues to trend younger and younger. Prompted by reports of degenerative brain disease afflicting many NFL veterans, new research is finding that concussions and other traumatic brain injuries are most prevalent among high schoolers.
Even worse, most of those injuries are occurring not in actual games, but during practice. A new study published in JAMA pediatrics found that 57 percent of college and high school football players have suffered at least one concussion during practice.
High school football players, meanwhile, are much more likely to suffer a concussion than college athletes.
The study drew data from more than 20,000 U.S. football players in 2012 and 2013. The results were not comforting: Nearly 1,200 concussions occurred on college and high school football fields in a two-season span, with two-third of them happening among high school football players.
College athletes, meanwhile, accounted for 22 percent of the brain injuries. Another 12 percent were attributed to youth football players below high school.
Concussions accounted for a larger percentage of total football injuries among college players compared to high school athletes, registering at eight and four percent, respectively. That percentage was highest among youth football players, though, where nearly 10 percent of all injuries were concussions.
Overall, a high school player participating in any given season faces a 10 percent chance of sustaining a concussion during that year.
Those are sobering numbers for opponents of football and its inherent health risks, and it should be a cause for concern among many parents of youth football players. But perhaps evidence of the widespread danger of the sport will accelerate efforts to reform football and remove some of its most dangerous elements, in turn reducing the risk faced by these athletes.